Both countries are building up their navies to project influence, and the Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean is expected to grow. David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador in Africa, expects China’s navy to make more frequent visits to port cities across the Indian Ocean — in South Asia, the southern Middle East and on the east coast of Africa — within the next 10 years and to expand its reach to North African ports on the Mediterranean Sea.
‘‘India will be concerned by a growing Chinese naval presence in the western Indian Ocean, which it has always considered its preserve. It has tolerated a significant U.S. presence there, but it has never considered the U.S. an enemy,’’ said Shinn, who now teaches international affairs at George Washington University.
This more permanent Chinese presence ‘‘will push India to ensure good military, particularly naval relations, with all the countries in the western Indian Ocean and along the east African coast,’’ he said.
In the recent border standoff, neither side engaged in much more than posturing.
‘‘They were just staring at each other. So I guess that in a way is a metaphor for the relationship,’’ Chaulia said. ‘‘There is no way that India and China can be comrades or brothers and sisters. I don’t think we can be that rosy-eyed. But certainly we can manage the problems.’’